FHI Leads the Way in Innovation

Innovation has always been central to how FHI approaches projects. Our staff is always striving to bring new ideas to fruition for our clients. As we continue to grow as a company, it’s important to make sure that innovation stays at the forefront of our work, so as part of our strategic plan, FHI is making that innovation more intentional, creating a specific research and development program to support our staff’s innovative efforts.

“We want to keep FHI at the leading edge of the practice, and we realize that we are doing a lot of creative things,” said Michael Morehouse, Vice President of Strategy & Innovation. “We have so many innovative people, and we need to encourage and support their efforts to push boundaries and take risks.”

The Research and Development program is an initiative to foster an environment where FHI can test new ideas and undertake innovative activities to develop new or improved products and services. This program includes researching and applying new technologies to projects as well as supporting managers who are looking to infuse creativity and new methodologies in their products.

Software application development is one area that FHI has been growing through ongoing R&D activities. Eric Smith, FHI’s IT Manager, has brought augmented reality to Complete Streets work, creating an app that allows people to use their mobile devices to visualize what a street it might look like with bike lanes or with placemaking elements. This allows the user to take the project concept into the real word, showing objects to scale, instead of just on a computer screen, giving the user a full context for how elements will integrate into the area.

Eric had developed other tools such as a parking calculator that, with land use and zoning data, can automatically calculate the number of parking spaces necessary for a particular plan. Smith has also brought his technological approach to FHI’s public involvement practice, figuring out ways to increase virtual participation in public outreach events. For example, Smith has created interactive maps that allow the public to drop pins where they are aware of issues or to highlight where connections can be improved. This allows public outreach to continue beyond the traditional public meeting.

“We try to create tools that are reusable, and not just specialized for one situation,” Smith said.

As part of this formalized research and development effort, Project Managers are empowered to utilize this resource to come up with creative solutions to problems they face on their projects.

“We want to make sure our staff knows they have the freedom to come up with new ideas and try new things, and give them the space to experiment” Morehouse said. “Innovation happens when you have the right people and cultivate an environment that is intentional and encouraging.” For more information on our innovative technologies at FHI contact Mike Morehouse at mmorehouse@fhiplan.com.